Today is the first day of summer. A year ago today I wrote about all I had accomplished on day one of summer 2012. This time around has been even more leisurely; this summer is going to be a little different than last because it's my last one as just me.
Today marks 24 weeks in my pregnancy. Baby girl is just four months away from making her big debut. Her room is virtually complete, just a few minor odds and ends to tie up. Invitations for both showers, one on this coast, one on the other, will all be out by the end of the week. We've signed up for birth class (to begin in August), and I'm taking my maternity leave paperwork in tomorrow to my midwife to have it signed. Aside from some small craft projects and the organization of our storage room, there isn't much left for us to do before she arrives other than enjoy these last few months as just us.
This morning I woke up with Big Red, had breakfast and lounged around watching the morning news. Olive and I went for a walk and then I did some yoga. I've got a book next to me that I might get into, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, but I don't have an agenda of any kind. There are no goals this summer other than to enjoy the quiet and calm, and try to do some kind of daily exercise (yoga or the elliptical) besides the ritual morning walk with Olive. I've been craving a pineapple upside down cake lately and yesterday my trip to the grocery store resulted in a basket full of plenty of fruits and veggies, a couple of steaks, and the ingredients to make my cake. Pineapple has appeared throughout my pregnancy - probably the one consistent craving I've had. Fruit really. I have a hard time if I don't have access to fruit. Don't worry, I'm not complaining. I'm well-aware that this is a fine craving to have versus that of pizza or candy.
I can only imagine how my summers after this one will be markedly different and forever changed. Neither one of us is ignorant to this fact and it's absolutely beyond irritating when folks try to tell us how it's going to be. The full gravity of the addition to our family has certainly not yet hit us, and probably won't until she's here. We get that people, we get it. It doesn't frighten us as we know our normal will just become a different kind. As for me personally, I'm sure there will come a moment when a summer day with my daughter will seem as it always has been.
This is my requisite end-of-the-year post. Normal though, it is not. The faces you see above are the faces of the very first graduating class of our little school. 55 seniors will walk across a stage tonight and receive their high school diplomas. Some of them are fortunate enough to know exactly what they want to do with their lives, others are still searching. All have something special to offer the world.
I started with this group four years ago, teaching them as freshman and have been their teacher since. They have grown, both physically and emotionally. On more than one occasion I have wanted to punt their asses down 5th Avenue, and likewise, I'm sure they cursed me to hell. It has been a love/hate relationship, but somehow, despite whatever bumps we've had along the way, however many eye-rolls and f*ck-yous have been slung at my head (or silently, slung at theirs - let's be honest, I'm human), this motley crew has endeared themselves to me. How apropos the epithet this class chose for themselves: "Never Before, Never Again."
Never before have I been with a single group of students for four years, and never again will it happen. They are our first pancakes - you know the one that either turns out too blond and under cooked, or burnt altogether. These kids took a chance on us, and we did our best to educate and instill in them enough tools and tricks of the trade so that they have a fighting chance at making something of themselves. Tonight we send them off on the wings of Pomp & Circumstance. This group has challenged me, and in many ways, prepared me for motherhood.
My first lesson comes tonight.
55 reminders that while they were mine for a short while, I still have to let them go.
Um, I'm not a pink ruffles kind of woman myself. I prefer black to pink actually. I don't wear a lot of dresses and my favorite outfit would be jeans, a t-shirt and some flip-flops. Comfort over fashion, for sure. After some intense searching I did find some items that weren't drowning in pink. Is this my fate? Is this her fate?
I read some time ago and loved Peggy Orenstein's book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. It's fun and funny, but above all speaks to those of us who champion a world where little girls aren't sexualized and where women are taught that their power does not come from physical perfection. Who says girls have to wear pink? My daughter (can I just say how weird that was to type) will most certainly wear pink, it's inevitable, but she can and will wear blue too. My instinct is to fight, vehemently, against the princess-obsessed girl culture we live in. Life is complicated and if the goal is to raise a confident, independent and well-adjusted young woman, can that, should that, involve the inundation of pink, princesses, and rhinestone-studded words across her ass?
Clearly I've got some time before I have to figure this all out and before she starts to ask questions and has the capability of pointing out a poorly proportioned Barbie doll with over-sized tits, teeny-tiny feet, and a gap in her thighs ten miles wide, in the store, so I'm going to start my own crusade to raise a healthy young woman with what I know best: books.
For a while now I've been compiling lists of books for both boys and girls that represent each gender in a healthy light. Here's what's on tap for our little miss:
- Pippi Longstocking
- Suki's Kimono
- Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
- Princess Smartypants
- Grace for President
- Harriet the Spy
- The Secret Garden
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Little House on the Prairie
- Little Women
- Ramona Quimby
- Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
- Amelia to Zora: 26 Women Who Changed the World
She'll skin her knees, she'll come in last, she won't get the boy (or the girl if she so chooses), she'll fail a test and she'll be alright.
She'll be stronger and better for it.
In just nine days I am scheduled to have the big anatomy scan, and yes we will be finding out if this little nugget is a boy or a girl. Oh yes. This mamma is a planner from cell to flesh and I don't think I could function if I had to wait until the birth. Everyone has an opinion about whether one should wait or not to find out the sex. Frankly, I could give a shit. Last time I checked, I was the one with the sore boobies and the growing tummy; sounds like the choice is ours despite the whole, "But don't you want to be surprised?" argument. Being told whether this is a girl or boy will garner the same surprise regardless of whether I'm lying on a bed with some blue-goo on my belly, comfortable and relaxed, or lying on a bed, having just pushed out a squirming screaming newborn. It's a surprise either way. Period. And because I'd like to have as much ready as I possibly can, I want to know. Now. In nine days. Case closed.
I have found that being pregnant opens the door for everyone and their mother to 1. touch your stomach, 2. tell you everything they know about parenting, 3. tell you their horror of a birth story, 4. ask you what you're going to name the kid. To which I will respond with the following: 1. a karate chop to your wandering touch or a reciprocal hand to your belly, 2. stop you and tell you I'm only having this child so someone will do the dishes for me, 3. proceed to interrupt your story and tell you about all my soccer injuries, 4. let you know I'm not revealing names.
Ahh, the name. Along the lines of opinions, so are the mired waters of the name discussion. The ritual and tradition of naming a child is as old as time, and is a very personal choice. I would NEVER make a rude comment to someone who has shared their choice of names. While I may not particularly like their choice, I'm going to damn well keep those thoughts to myself - as should everyone else. Nor should people proceed to tell a parent-to-be some wild story about an "Emma" they once knew and how she was a slutty whore. Because I know not everyone can hold their tongue, Big Red and I will not, I repeat NOT be sharing our name choices. We may leak to a few very close people, but that's pretty much it. Choosing a name for a child is a big responsibility, at least that's how we view it. Big Red has an aversion to the current more trendy names out there right now, and we both agree we like names that have been around for a while. This kid definitely will not have a Top 10 name, in fact they will probably not even have a Top 100 name. Last night we were perusing and using the US Social Security Administration website, plugging in possible choices to see where they ranked in popularity. It was both funny and a fun discussion. Turns out my name, Ilene, is a name that is not even in the top 1000 names for the past decade. Score me.
The very real responsibility of giving a name is undeniable We want the name to be strong, time-tested, and to sound professional. We're not interested in unique spellings, or something easily butchered. Other parents may follow different guidelines, these are ours.
The film is compelling, as all in this genre are (Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., etc.). After watching clips of the horrors of slaughter house practices and the inhumane treatment of livestock, I always turn my DVD player off with a knot in my stomach and the renewed resolve to live a more conscious and healthy life - one that does not involve eating animal products. At the start of 2012, I actually went vegan for several months as a way to kick off a healthier way of eating and to lose some weight. The resulting effects of omitting animal products were wonderful. I felt lighter, less fatigued, more lucid and clean from the inside out. I was educated on the health benefits of such a way of eating, and came to realize I could get all the nutrition I needed from a plant-based, whole food way of life. There is some hard evidence out there that suggests when eating a properly balanced whole food/plant-based diet, heart disease and cancer rates significantly drop. Who wouldn't want those odds?
I was very successful and in fact lost 30 lbs. But I didn't keep up the vegan lifestyle. For one, Big Red likes meat. He was willing to go along with my food scheming ways, so long as there was an occasional meat-based dish. He likes cows milk and eggs. He likes cheese, and so do I. Very much. Cooking two meals isn't feasible, not on a regular basis, and since I'm the resident chef - by choice - these are daily considerations. These are not excuses, this is my/our reality. I don't think it's right to impose my way of thinking on Big Red, that isn't fair to him. Just because I've got a bee in my bonnet about the welfare of cows and chickens and pigs and fish, doesn't mean he should as well. He's a grown man and can make his own choices, but because I do the grocery shopping and the cooking, does that mean I make his food choices for him? I don't think it works like that, or at least, it wouldn't work well.
In our debriefing of the film last night, Big Red said that while the film was provocative, going vegan wasn't going to solve the atrocities being done to animals - we are just one or two people, how could that make an impact? Further, if there were a demand for more plant-based foods, something would go awry in the farming of those products and then there would be some crazy overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, and we'd have issues there as well. He's a little skeptical if you haven't picked up on that already.
But I still feel guilty. I feel bad that there's cheese and eggs in my fridge right now. I feel bad that some poor chicken was shoved into a teeny tiny metal crate and kept contained just for its eggs. If my decision to make vegan-like choices doesn't save all animals, at the very least it would ease my guilt. Not to mention the perks of the health benefits.
Is there some kind of balance possible? What if I cut down, once again, on the purchasing of animal products, and when I do buy them, I buy them from retailers like Wild Purveyors? It's a family owned business (like) that specializes is seasonal, locally sourced raw and specialty products. Their animals are locally raised in a pasture and humanely slaughtered (like). And all products are antibiotic, GMO, and rBST free (like).
He came home feeling down and out, saw me laying on the couch taking a nap. Disregarding his own state of mind, he offered to make dinner which would include homemade meatballs. I was to relax and stay put.
It is no wonder I have loved this man for 13 years.
It is no wonder I have loved this man for 13 years.
How often are we really all forced to face our own mortality? I mean, in all honesty, how often do you think about when you're going to die? It is, most definitely, inevitable. Although it may be grim to say so, truth is, each day we live this lovely tragic twisted and beautiful life, we are a day closer to death.
In my lifetime I have seen death. My first true experience was with my grandfather, Granpa Milt. I was in high school. It was sad, but it was not unexpected. He had been ill for a while and had already had several close calls. When he died, he'd already lived a long and full life. When I was in graduate school my mother's father died. I was in New York, he was in California. Because of the distance, I don't think I ever really felt the full effect of his passing, and in some way, I'm selfishly glad for that.
The death that has most profoundly affected me was the death of my brother-in-law. Ten years ago this summer, he died in a car accident. He was just 25. This was not a death anyone was prepared to handle. To say that his passing was a kick to the nuts would be a gross understatement. When Mike died, something in me - in all of us who knew him, fell off the shelf and broke. Deep fissures of pain bore themselves into our ribs. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and something that I pray to the universe, I'll never have to experience ever again. I was the one who had to tell Big Red his brother was dead. I consider myself a bit of a wordsmith and trust me when I say there is not a single word or series of words that can capture what that was like - telling him.
While Mike's death was a tremendous shock, it was, reduced to its simplest form, an accident. When my both my grandfathers died, they died because they were old men. What about the possibility of death that comes not from an accident, or from old age, but from a disease?
I know a lovely woman who is battling ovarian cancer. She's beat it once and she's beating the shit out of it again. Most recently another woman I know was diagnosed with breast cancer - she too is lovely and strong and will fight this bitch of a cancer tooth and nail. I know a third woman, a friend from college, who fought and kicked Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma square in the balls.
We're never really asked to think about "the end" unless forced to do so because of someone or something in our lives. I know it can get a little nebulous and heady because, at least for me, death seems so unreal. To cease to exist is a concept that definitely warps your brain if you think about it for too long. Why don't we ever talk about it? Why is our culture geared towards ignoring the end when in fact it's the one guarantee we ALL have in this life?
And then the bigger question: what does it all mean?
I know, I know - this is big stuff.
at 6:21 PM